One of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City has been arrested and will face federal charges related to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"Jennifer Shah, who portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on ‘reality’ television, and Stuart Smith, who is portrayed as Shah’s ‘first assistant,’ allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam," U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. "In actual reality and as alleged, the so-called business opportunities pushed on the victims by Shah, Smith, and their co-conspirators were just fraudulent schemes, motivated by greed, to steal victims’ money. Now, these defendants face time in prison for their alleged crimes."
Shah's bio on Bravo states that she is a mother of two, has a husband, Sharrieff, and "is the queen of her house and her businesses as the CEO of three marketing companies. Always decked out in designer brands, Jen loves to host parties and spares no expense."
In a recent article posted on Bravo's website, headlined, Jen Shah Reveals What Her Job Is and Explains What the Shah Squad Actually Does, she explained, “My background is in direct response marketing for about 20 years, so our company does advertising. We have a platform that helps people acquire customers, so when you’re shopping online or on the Internet, and something pops, we have the algorithm behind why you’re getting served that ad."
However, the indictment claims that Shah, 47, and Smith, 43, targeted victims, mostly over age 55, through telemarketing to offer them fake online "business services," like tax preparation—even though many of these victims did not own computers—and then sold leads to other companies. The leads were allegedly generated in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, while the telemarketing took place in New York and New Jersey, the indictment described.
After sales, Shah and Smith would get a cut of the revenue generated by the scheme, the feds said, and put the money in off-shore accounts. Acting Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter Fitzhugh said the duo "flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their ‘success.’ In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people."
"Hundreds of victims" were "defrauded and targeted," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
The pair were arrested in Salt Lake City on Tuesday and appeared in federal court. They did not enter pleas; according to the Salt Lake Tribune, "Instead [of asking that they be detained], prosecutors asked for 'standard conditions' for Shah and Smith to be released — they must appear at all hearings, cannot have contact with each other, cannot commit new crimes and agree to restrict their travel, including surrendering their passports and not traveling outside of Utah except to New York for further court hearings."
The judge said they could try to have their case transferred to Salt Lake, but they would need to plead guilty.
The Instagram account twojudgeygirls posted a tip—that Variety confirmed—noting that "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" had been filming on Tuesday, with Shah suddenly leaving before the authorities were on set. Variety reports, "The cameras were rolling, but the source wasn’t sure whether law enforcement had forced them to stop filming."
Bravo is not commenting on the matter.
If they are found guilty, Shah and Smith face up to 30 years for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The U.S. Attorney's office added, "If you believe you have been a victim of the scheme described above, including a victim entitled to restitution, and you wish to provide information to law enforcement and/or receive notice of future developments in the case or additional information, please contact Wendy Olsen-Clancy, the Victim Witness Coordinator at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, at 866-874-8900 or email@example.com. You may also report it to Detective Christopher Bastos at 917-480-7167 or firstname.lastname@example.org."